Button relishing return to “special” Monza

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McLaren driver Jenson Button is relishing Formula One’s annual visit to Monza next weekend as the European season comes to a close with the Italian Grand Prix.

Button expressed his excitement for the race in McLaren’s grand prix preview, with the Briton finishing on the podium in Italy on four previous occasions.

“I’ve always loved Monza. I really enjoy circuits that have a bit of history to them, and Monza has that in abundance – it’s one of the greatest tracks on the calendar,” Button explained.

“The place is unique: ever since we lost the ‘old’ Hockenheim, this has been the only place on the calendar where you run a really super-low downforce configuration. And you can feel it – the car accelerates up to speed incredibly quickly, feels skittish and loose when you’re running flat-out, and can be tricky and unpredictable under braking. But that’s what makes the place a special kind of challenge, and I really enjoy that.”

The race will also see McLaren celebrate its fiftieth birthday, with Martin Whitmarsh explaining yesterday how it felt right to be reaching the landmark at a historic circuit such as Monza. Button echoed his team principal’s thoughts and explained how he hopes to honor the milestone with a strong result.

“There’s nowhere quite like it. So it’s really appropriate that McLaren will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in the paddock over the Monza weekend.

“Both names are synonymous with motorsport history – you couldn’t imagine Formula One without them – so I’ll be hoping for a strong result to show the strength and depth that we have as a team.”

McLaren’s start to the season has been far from impressive, recording a best result of fifth at this year’s Chinese Grand Prix. However, with eight races remaining in the season, there is still time for the team to score at least one top-three finish in order to avoid its first year without a podium since 1995.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”